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From the Editor

Just Say No?


If it seems as if every page you turn to in this month's magazine contains some reference to No Child Left Behind, you may not be far off. In our 96 pages, there are six news stories that reference NCLB, four features, two columns and one new product. That's not including Inside the Law, our NCLB update.

It's not an accident. Chances are that once you finish this magazine, NCLB will continue to influence what you do.

Most of the law's publicity has centered around testing requirements, and now, the results of those tests. While testing is undoubtedly the most important part of NCLB, those in K-12 school districts know there is much more buried within the law's 670 pages.

One small school district in Vermont may chuck the requirements-and money-that come with NCLB.

In this issue, we delve into many of those other areas, such as how schools are avoiding the "persistently dangerous" label ("Fighting Danger" p. 52), and why it's so hard for urban administrators to get a handle on the dropout problem ("Drop Out" p. 32). Even in stories that don't deal directly with the law, like our cover story, "Hot-Button Handling," (p. 24) and our look at school choice in Milwaukee ("Choice is Good" p. 39), NCLB has an impact.

So it's no surprise to find that at least one school district, Rutland (Vt.) Northeast, is considering rejecting the law and the funds that come with it. Superintendent William Mathis advised his 11 boards of education in October that it might be better to forego the roughly $129,000 in Title I funds the district would receive than to take the money and try to meet all the federal requirements. (It's less than 3 percent of the district's annual $5.1 million budget.)

Mathis says the state's tough definition of a proficient student makes it unlikely that almost any state school will meet the federal standard of having 95 percent proficient. But his objections go deeper.

Because only schools that receive Title I funds will be affected, Mathis says only the schools with more poor students (i.e., those that need funding the most) will be at risk of losing money. With many small Vermont schools the difference between getting good test grades for each group of students and bad test grades could swing each year without giving an accurate reflection of how the schools are teaching.

Mathis, and his boards, haven't made a final decision about whether or not to reject the federal funds. But if they do, the superintendent will save more than requirement headaches. He'll be able to skip a few of the articles in this issue.